The Unrealized Promise in the Downtown Cleveland Video

Some of my Twitter followers from other cities sent me this video made by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance advertising Cleveland’s downtown as a place to live. These folks were impressed with the video, and its emphasis on livability. Some of my bike friends were excited too, that bikes were featured so prominently.

There’s a shot of Critical Mass rolling through Public Square yelling “happy Friday,” like they always do. And those really are the most fun moments in downtown Cleveland, the kind that make the most compelling footage for videos like this one.

One thing that really struck me about this video: they’ve sort of completely erased cars from the landscape. You see a few parked ones, a few moving ones from a height of a few hundred feet. But other than that, they’re totally absent, though buses and trains and bikes are featured prominently. And that was a smart decision. People who want to live in downtown Cleveland don’t imagine themselves sitting in traffic or searching for parking spaces. They want to walk with their friends and bike and catch a bus or a pedicab.

So it’s great to see that marketing firms and our downtown civic group recognizes that. But I think we still have a long way to go to make the idealized image of downtown Cleveland more like the everyday image. And the fact about the unedited version of downtown Cleveland is that a huge proportion of the space is devoted to moving and storing cars. There’s not even really a bike lane anywhere in downtown proper. So while we now seem to recognize the value of livability in Cleveland, we have yet to start making the hard decisions on behalf of people that desire that lifestyle, and by that I mean converting space that was formerly dedicated to cars and making it active spaces that will attract people.

In Vancouver, parking spaces are converted into outdoor dining space.

–A.S.

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